Once lost, now the 1970 winner is found
May 26, 2010
The announcement date, May 19, came and went, and I forgot to follow up on the Lost Man Booker Prize. So here it is, the winner, announced last week: Troubles by J. G. Farrell, the first book in his Empire Trilogy published in 1970 that’s followed by The Siege of Krishnapur (which won the Booker Prize in 1973) and The Singapore Grip (published in 1978).
Troubles takes place in Ireland and tells the story of a military major who returns from the Great War to find his Anglo-Irish fiancée and her family owned hotel greatly changed. According to The Guardian’s Books Blog: “Farrell’s portrayal of the fast-decaying Majestic Hotel and England’s even more rapidly crumbling rule in Ireland surely adds up to one of the best books of the last half-century, let alone 1970.”
Troubles received more than double the votes cast for the other books on the Lost Man Booker shortlist. You can read about the how and why of this delayed prize in TLC’s 1970 novel to get award in 2010. There, also, you’ll get the five contenders that lost. In essence, the Man Booker Prize didn’t get awarded in 1970 due to a change in the time of year for the prize announcement. Man Booker management decided to correct the oversight and fill the gap.
In a Times Online review of Farrell’s Selected Letters and Diaries edited by Lavinia Greacen (who also wrote his biography,) Troubles was a critical success but a commercial flop when it was released, selling less than 2,000 copies. The second and third books in the trilogy secured Farrell’s success. He became known for insightful fiction on the topic of British colonialism.
Farrell died at the age of 44 in 1979. He was fishing beside the sea near his farmhouse in southwest Ireland when waves knocked him off the rock into the water, and he drowned. He was at the height of his writing career. The tragedy shocked Britain’s literary community.
The aforementioned letters and biography about J. G. Farrell are: